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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Relay For Life - Young survivor rallies others to fight cancer

Monday, June 11, 2012

Among a group of girls donating ponytails to make wigs for cancer patients is Carly Ortmann, far right, a cancer survivor. Ortmann and the others allowed cancer survivors to cut their hair during the 2012 Relay For Life in Plymouth County, hosted at the Remsen track Friday.
Carly Ortmann doesn't even remember her own fight against cancer.

That didn't stop the Remsen 9 year old from giving sacrificially to help others battling the disease.

At Friday's Plymouth County Relay For Life, Carly let a fellow cancer survivor chop about 8 inches off her hair.

Leading the first lap around the track for Plymouth County's Relay For Life -- the survivor lap -- are (center) Wanda Delperdang and Leroy Schrunk, the 2012 survivor queen and king. Delperdang and Schrunk, both of Le Mars, were voted king and queen by fellow survivors at a Relay For Life survivor celebration dinner. After this first lap at the Relay For Life, more than 25 local fundraising teams joined in.
Her donated ponytail will be combined with others to make wigs the American Cancer Society will give for free to people who have lost their hair during their own fight with cancer.

Carly lost her hair during chemo and radiation treatments as a 3 year old, when doctors found a Wilms tumor on her kidney and more cancer that had spread to her lungs.

"She had stomach pains and we rushed her to the ER," said Brenda Ortmann, Carly's mom. "They did tests and found a tumor the size of a football. It's the fastest growing tumor."

Nine-year-old cancer survivor Carly Ortmann, of Remsen, stands with her parents Bill and Brenda Ortmann and her 7-year-old brother, Cael, at the Relay For Life in Remsen, which was held Friday. Carly's team and about 25 other teams walked laps around the track and raised money to fight cancer by donating it to the American Cancer Society.
Carly said she was a little nervous about getting her hair cut short Friday, but when the time came, she had a smile on her face.

"It's important for her to help out people who went through what she went through," Brenda said.

Brenda said she and her husband Bill weren't aware of the American Cancer Society when Carly was fighting cancer six years ago. That's part of the reason their whole family, including Carly's 7-year-old brother Cael, participate in the Relay For Life.

"We want to get the information out there so people fighting cancer can call someone to get the support they need," Brenda said.

Ortmann's family and other friends made up one of more than 25 Relay For Life teams participating in Friday's event, raising money for the American Cancer Society.

Their team sported bright orange shirts bearing the name "Carly's Angels."

The 9 year old smiled when asked about the team name.

"It makes me feel special," Carly said.

Hair donations were only one part of the 16th annual local Relay For Life event, where hundreds gathered around the Remsen track to celebrate those who have survived cancer, remember those who lost the battle and fight back against the disease by raising money and awareness.

The relay in Remsen was one of more than 5,000 taking place across the United States this year. Those present joined more than four million people around the world for the cause.

"We all have different reasons for being here, but we all have something very much in common," said local event chairwoman Stacey Kliever, welcoming the crowd. "We want to fight cancer."

The goal of the event was to raise $37,000, the Le Mars woman said.

Totals won't be in until later this week, but Kliever was confident they would reach that mark.

"We already have $10,000 plus $7,000 in corporate sponsorships, and it keeps trickling in," she said as the Relay For Life kicked off around her.

Starting with a lap around the track for cancer survivors only, people began walking at about 6:30 p.m. and continued until about 2 a.m.

Before they started, survivor Malia Mouser shared her story to rally the walkers.

"I've been on both sides of cancer," the Remsen woman said.

For years, she served as a caregiver to others fighting cancer.

"I watched cancer take my dad and my brother Tim," Mouser said. "I never thought I would get the call, 'you have cancer.'"

But the day before her 50th birthday, Mouser got that call.

She had cancer in her uterus and it had spread to some of her core lymph nodes.

"The first thing that popped into my head is that I was going to walk in the Relay For Life wearing a "survivor" T-shirt," she said.

After a six-hour surgery to remove the tumor and the affected lymph nodes, Mouser prepared for chemotherapy.

"They told me they were going to start me fast and hit me hard," she said. "The nursing staff informed me that I would not walk through this alone, and I didn't."

Mouser remembered being at a gas station in Le Mars when a man came up and knocked on her car window. When she rolled it down, he said to her, "I just wanted you to know I'm praying for you."

Mouser said that simple message lifted her heart.

After her chemotherapy, Mouser was preparing for radiation, but a CT scan of her body came back clean.

"They couldn't start radiation because there was no evidence of the disease," she said, grinning. "I feel so blessed to be here."

Applause broke out from the Relay For Life teams listening to her message.

One look around the Remsen track showed that cancer affects families. Teens, parents, toddlers, grandparents, all were present.

During the survivor lap around the track, one survivor, Krista Harpenau, of Remsen, paused to pick up her baby granddaughter to finish the lap together.

Jamie Harpenau, Krista's daughter, smiled, watching her mom walk the lap.

"I'm here to support her," Jamie said, adding that her mom won the battle against cancer about 1 1/2 years ago.

Jamie said she also supported her mom through that fight.

"Mostly it was just being there and helping her, helping her think of something else," Jamie said.

Now Krista, an occupational therapist, is back at work and helping others, her daughter said.

Jamie came from her home in Fort Dodge to be a part of her mom's Relay For Life team.

"I want her to know I'm here to support her through anything," Jamie said.

Relay For Life chairwoman Kliever said she participates in the event for family reasons, too.

She lost her grandma, Maxine Rolling, and two aunts, Leanne Rolling and JoAnn Sudtelgte, to cancer.

"I don't want anyone else to lose family members like we did," she said. "If we can raise enough to cure cancer, we won't lose family members anymore."

That purpose ran throughout the whole event Friday, as people walked laps, held fundraisers, donated hair, and shared memories of loved ones who lost the battle to cancer.

"We gather together so that everyone fighting cancer will be supported, and so that no one who has lost the battle will ever be forgotten," said one of the event organizers, Jill Loutsch, of Remsen. "And we do this so that someday no one in Plymouth County will ever hear the dreaded words, 'you have cancer.'"

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